God always answers our prayers; it’s just that the answers seldom look like we expect them to! (That’s how we learn God has a sense of humour.)
As we approached Ash Wednesday, I began to pray about Lent. I knew there were certain ways my course needed correcting in order to be closer to God, and of course I thought I knew precisely what this Lent needed to be in order to accomplish that (for what better way is there to stop drifting away from God than by exerting your own will into your spiritual life?)
So I prayed, “Oh Lord, I desire to find you in the desert silence of Lent. I make a retreat of this Lent in order to draw closer to You, to strengthen the relationship with You I have been neglecting.” As I prayed this, I had visions of myself spending the six weeks like the monks from Into Great Silence. Granted, I wouldn’t be wearing a robe, repairing shoes, planting a kitchen garden in the snow, or getting up to chant the office in the dark hours of the night… but the end result would be me looking rather like a prayer card from of old – serenely pious and obviously gazing upon the Beatific Vision. Isn’t that what happens every Lent? Clearly my expectations were very reasonable.
In preparation I collected a pile of inspirational and very efficacious reading and had visions of attentive hours spent reading every single book by Easter. I foresaw a gentle solitude – a retreat, in fact, very much like the life of those monks far away in their French Alps Monastery. There would be much prayer, fruitful reflection, and a thriving creativity.
You know the saying about making plans, don’t you? If you want to see God laugh… tell Him your plans.
It’s not that this Lent has been disastrous – not in the least. It just hasn’t been at all like the fine visions I’d had before it started. Life is still life; I haven’t been transformed into a cloistered religious. I haven’t read all of the books that were going to so edify my mind and soul; in fact I’ve not read a single one. Even fasting has fallen by the wayside as my family has (it seems) a birthday or a feast day every week.
Has it been a write-off? Not in the least! I’d prayed for a strengthening of my relationship with God – something that, quite honestly, has needed work lately. God has honoured that request beautifully, touching my life in unexpected ways. (A story for another time.) I’m humbled at the way He heard the true desire of my heart rather than merely the words I spoke.
I pray for all of you, as we prepare to enter Holy Week, to know that God has also heard the desire of your heart, and has been faithful in answering.
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